Thanks are like love. One thanks begets another which, in turn, begets still another. For 50-plus local veterans — men and women who have served years or careers in our military forces — Saturday, June 8, was a day of thanks each will remember for the remainder of their lives.
We were on the receiving end of the most heartwarming and overwhelming expressions of gratitude any of us had ever experienced. And we had each had our faith and pride in our country and its people restored. Our hearts swelled with gratitude and our eyes — well, they were moist in the way only love can cause.
It all began when we responded to an invitation. We — veterans of World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Cold War, and some more recent conflicts — had been invited to participate, to be honored guests, in an event many of us had never heard of: Honor Flight.
Had we had occasion to do so, we, mostly somewhat senior veterans, might have visited the Internet and found this: Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C., to visit and reflect at their memorials.
Some of us had had a “hazy notion” what was afoot, but to use an expression of our younger generations, we were “totally blown away” by the day our Honor Flight hosts had in store for us.
We had begun the day as half-a-hundred crusty and cantankerous curmudgeons — that is to say, our usual selves. By day’s end, it was our turn to be thankful. Thankful beyond measure for the careful and detailed planning and preparation of Dianne Klopp and her crew of loving volunteers of Honor Flight Top of Virginia.
The volunteers we saw were 50-plus in number. They were our “guardians” — and by day’s end they and we were “family.” These and many other volunteers — local citizens, neighbors, townspeople of Winchester and surrounding towns and locales (too numerous to list here) — had devoted time, energy, and who knows how much more, to make our Honor Flight day so memorable.
The day? Breakfast (and at day’s end also dinner) at Shenandoah University. Two touring buses led by an advance escort of local motorcyclists and police. Arrival in Washington, D.C. Visits to the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial (a.k.a. Iwo Jima), the U.S. Air Force Memorial overlooking the Pentagon, and Arlington National Cemetery where we witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. More moist eyes at these stops. Must have been something in the air!
Upon return to Shenandoah University we were greeted by a smiling, flag-waving, cheering crowd of moms, dads, kids, firefighters, reminiscent of a small-town parade. And it was our turn for thanks! Tuckered out, yes, but now grateful curmudgeons! With moist eyes.